Monday, September 14, 2009

Short and sweet today.

Our answering recording goes something like this:

"Welcome to ___ Pharmacy. Please listen to the following Options.
To hear pharmacy hours, press 1.
To refill a prescription, press 2.
If you are calling from a doctor's office, press 3.
If you need to speak to a pharmacy employee, press 4.
To hear this menu again, press 7."

Every single caller to our phone line hears that part of the message, unless they already know their number or just start hitting keys like a toddler creating a tone poem. So why did I answer this following phone call *3* times today?

"My Pharmacy, my town. Technician Becky speaking. How can I help you?"
"What time does the pharmacy close today?"
"Nine o'clock."
"Oh. Do you have those hours listed anywhere? I shouldn't have to call to find this out."

Dear 3 Idiot Callers;
Debrox is available on the top shelf in the cough and cold aisle, above the eye drops. Use it, or stop wasting both my time and my oxygen.

Please, just pull your lip over your head and swallow,
Becky the (PMSing, Pissed off, Stressed out) Techie

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Today a nurse blew my mind.

Normally in my experience, nurses get the same kind of flack (and consequently lose their patience at the same rate) as pharmacy employees. So today, when a patient of ours had a conniption fit because her refills from 5AM today went to the "tomorrow" queue through our voice mail (meaning they'd be ready for Thursday pick up), I wasn't surprised when she said she as a nurse. It's somewhat common for the people having conniption fits at our counter to be nurses, doctors, P.A.s, or otherwise familiar with the back of the desk in a medical situation. One of the rudest, most insulting and cruel patients I've ever waited on claimed to be a psych ward nurse... and of course, was *not* picking up mood stabilizers for herself, more's the pity.

Any way, as upset as she was, this lady got herself back together, and then, she blew my mind. In my attempt to calm her down and get her out from in front of the registers (because I had to run both, having no help out front for the last 90 minutes of my shift), I explained how the voicemail line rolls over at midnight and that we're short handed thanks to a 44 hr. cut by corporate last week (which delayed her "rush" from the usual 10 minutes to 25). She asked for the customer care number, which I gave her, and before the prescriptions were done, she'd called, gotten a human being (a feat in and of itself)...

And took our side in her complaint. "It's not the employees' fault," she said. "Everyone here is always courteous and polite. They need more help. They can't even breathe back there."

I could have cried tears of joy and relief. And I couldn't thank her enough.

That is a patient that I'm sorry to lose, not because I have any kind of twisted sense of loyalty to the people treating me and my coworkers like Amish buggy horses (run them till they can't work any more, then shoot them and buy new ones), but because I would be glad to bend over backwards to see that she doesn't get the short end of the stick again thanks to our understaffing and late deliveries. She deserves pharmacist and tech loyalty, because she knows how to give it. But I won't have that chance again, regardless of how big the gift card is that corporate will send out, because she's been wronged (against our will) by her own oversight and corporate dictation.

Hard to run the kind of "drug store that cares" when we're treated like we work an assembly line.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Funny one, sort of.

While ringing out a female patient somewhere between ages 18 and 30 the other day, I highlighted a note from the pharmacist on her bag encouraging her to use a "back up method" if she's taking HBC while on Augmentin.

"Don't even worry about it," she said, handing me her keys for the store loyalty card.

"It's just that the way this is absorbed can affect how your birth control works. We want to help you avoid a surprise pregnancy is all," I said, and gave her a total.

I completely missed the rainbow key chain she still had in her hand. I also completely missed that the girl standing beside her talking on the phone was leaning on her shoulder with a hand in her back pocket until they both sort of chuckled and rolled their eyes at each other.

It took me way to long to realize "don't even worry about it" may have meant that she didn't have a partner capable of impregnating her in the first place.

That's how out of it these past weeks have made me. I don't even know a lesbian couple when they snuggle in front of my counter.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


"Girl! Get my medicine!"

"I need this. Get it."

*throw a prescription, insurance card, credit card, or check onto the counter*

*snatch things out of my hand*

After today, and the past two weeks of "shut up and fill" pharmacy hours, I'm finding myself wondering what in the godless motherfuck has happened to courtesy, manners, and the idea that *not* acting like an asshole in public is a good thing. Of the above degradations frequently heaped on retail workers, all 4 have happened to me today alone. I've lost count of how many times this week someone has displayed such stunning examples of tactless, overly-entitled bullshit to me or a coworker... and it's only Wednesday.

Tonight, I would very much like the opportunity to tell people that think they can treat anyone, let alone the people helping them get their drugs, food, clothing, social security checks, or phone/television/Internet service what they deserve to hear. Some examples follow:

"Tell me if my prescription's ready."
"What's your-- "
"I could if you weren't such a self-centered prick. Guess you're out of luck until you calm down and tell me your name, huh?"

"You're going to get my medicine out of the drawer and answer a question before you ring it up."
"Yes, sir. Right away, sir. I'll be right back, sir. Please don't beat me, sir." (Meanwhile I'm wondering if he'd get the point sooner if I said "Master" instead.)

"Get me a pharmacist."
"Is this a patient or a doctor's office?"
"None of your damn business, just get the fucking pharmacist!"
"Okay. Some asshole on line 3 for a pharmacist."
*press hold button*
*hang up the receiver, no hold required*

My sick sense of curiosity wonders what the physician's assistants and front office staff in busy doctor's offices, many of whom spare no patience for us while we're on the phone with them, have to deal with? Is it the same string of mannerless baboons in human clothing, or do they get at least a modicum of respect because it's more obvious that the "nobody" at the reception desk sits between the assholes their doctor?

In pharmacy, I've noticed, few people seem to realize that the techs are the work horses, just like the scrubs-clad staff of the average physician's office. The Pharmacists are in charge; it's their liberty (literally) on the line if we screw up, but patients are often shocked to hear that the girl in the blue smock that they don't like because "I saw a tattoo on her arm in some kind of Heathen language!" is the same person that bills their insurance, counts and labels their pills, and calls to save them a trip when the pharmacy is out of stock on something.

I was raised by people who are almost old enough to be my grandparents. Maybe this skews my perception somehow, but when we went to stores or any other public place when I was a kid, both of my parents said please and thank you. They asked for help rather than demanding service. They took the time to attempt conversation or tell a goofy joke if someone seemed to be having a rough day. I mimicked that behavior and always used what I was taught should be common courtesy toward people in customer service positions. Just because it was their job to help me, I remember my father saying once, shouldn't mean they get treated like hired hands.

I honestly didn't think, until I started working retail, that such behavior was that rare. But, at least it's made me a good customer. I still use please and thank you. I still ask for assistance instead of demanding service. I still try to smile and speak to the person behind that counter because I'm one of the (apparently) few that realizes human beings exist outside of my own little bubble world.

But after days like today... I can think of a whole lot of bubbles I'd like to pop.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Star" sighting.

Today I waited on a man who spoke and sounded EXACTLY like Morgan Freeman. I almost wrote "Ellis Redding" instead of his real name on his Rx bag.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I don't get it.

Can someone who works in pharmacy, preferably a PiC or manager explain the following to me?

Two of the 5 busiest pharmacies in our chain, both running 3,500+/week are getting even more cut backs. We're down to 380 tech hrs/week and 90 pharmacist hrs/week.

3,500 Rxs... 90 pharmacist hours.

Is my District Manager cranio-rectally inverted, or do I just not know some kind of secret magic spell to stop time without freezing myself in place?

No wonder Mama Bear was such a grump yesterday. We're suffering as it is, and that's *still* not enough.

I'm updating my resume and looking for a new job. Anywhere but here. Anything but this.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How much is Enough?

Mama Bear, one of my pharmacists, is a veteran of the field. The date on the license on the wall is 1970-something, and she's worked every year of the time since. For patient counseling or dosage questions? Mama Bear is my go-to. Don't know something about an OTC? Let me get her, she's been around since it was introduced. She can probably sing you the original jingle too.

Depending on the day.

See, of all the skills for a pharmacist to *not* have, Mama Bear cannot handle stress. As in at all. Today was no exception; working a 12 in a pharmacy both understaffed and overrun, she was getting pulled in 4 directions at once. I understand that, and I do whatever I can to take the burden off of her on days like this one. But I'm the Tech; she's the Pharmacist--- some things, she has to do. There's no two ways about it, and we're both supposed to understand it.

So I find it... insulting, to say nothing of unnecessary (and honestly, a little childish), when I pull a finished prescription from the refrigerator, take it Mama Bear in her designated "Rx Checker" position, put the bag and box on the counter next to her, and back up a step to wait for her to double check that the name on the box and the bag match (per corporate C.O.As.W.Y.C.G.D* rules), to hear "WHADDAYA WANT?!?!?"

She slams her fist on the counter, throws things, snaps at whatever tech she's next to, blames that tech for every problem in her hands no matter whose name is on it, and just generally takes her bad mood out on the nearest target that's lower than her on the Pharmacy Totem Pole. And never an apology for it. The unprofessional way she treats us just doesn't seem to register when she's in that mood.

The bigger issue, though, is her disregard for the manager/PiC trying to calm her down or rein her in. As a former manager, it seems like Mama Bear's default setting is "I have to do all of this myself, goddamnit. Don't make it any harder on me," and that gets damn hard to work with when she's the only option for Pharmacist-only duties.

I'm generally a pretty patient person, but after personally being yelled at twice today for things that were not my doing or otherwise out of my hands, and watching her hit the other techs with both barrels over stupid things she had to take care of (like the doctor calling in that was left on hold for almost 10 minutes), I'd made up my mind to say something when she did it again. I'm not a fan of workplace confrontation, and I'll be damned if I know what I would have said, but I can only hope it wouldn't have involved turning the air blue in front of a customer, whether Mama Bear had it coming or not.

So, I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place now. When she comes back on Thursday, she's probably going to be just as grumpy as ever, and as usual, taking it out on the techs. A few of the techs besides me are sick and fucking tired of this crap too, but for whatever reason won't speak up. It's far less confrontational on their parts to talk to HR and have the (non pharmacy manger) talk to Mama Bear for them. But, I don't want to see one of the best pharmacists we have reported to the corporate "Pharmacists" (in name only) for her admittedly lousy behavior.

Think it's too late to teach an old dog a new trick? And how do I bring it up? Take her aside quietly after our shifts are over? Wait until she hits me with both barrels again and fire back (which has worked in the past)? Or should I get management into it, even though Mama Bear brushes her off like a pesky fly and goes right back to growling and snarling at the few things we have to ask her to do?

She's retiring in a couple of years, but in the mean time, she's killing herself and making the job harder for *all* of us, and uncomfortable for the customers who end up standing at a register listening to her bitch while they're waiting to be rung up for the insulin that's in her hand while she's complaining about having to double check it in the first place. I might be low on the Totem Pole here, but without a sold base, the whole damn thing falls down. She's chipping away at the bottom of it, daily, and I don't know how much longer it's going to stand. :(

*Cover Our Asses While You Can Go Die, or the guiding star for any corporation making decisions, rules, and policies. Laissez Faire at it's finest, my friends.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Great Man?

A few days ago, I put a face to a name I've known well since I started this job. See, normally, I'm great with faces. New customer comes in to drop off three emergency room meds and comes back at their pick up time, I'll remember that they're getting a Pred Pak, a Z-Pak and Cheratussin AC with directions for the Mucinex D that's behind the counter, so I hope to Dog they have their State ID... but I won't remember the name to save my Inherited from the German Side of the Family Arsch unless it's also the name of a close family member or otherwise enters into conversation.

But the face? See them once, and I've got it.

So it's odd for me to hear a name, like Mary or Clark Duncan and not know a face to go with it. In this case, though, two names went with one face, because Mr. Duncan picked up several times a week for Mary or Clark Duncan like clockwork.

I was surprised to say the least when two women, one clearly in her 70s or older and one somewhere in the middle of life, came in and asked for Mary Duncan's medicines. After I got through the basics, I asked if Clark was all right.

The younger woman burst into tears. The older one said simply, "Yes, now. He's passed on."

Well fuck. Stepped in that one barefoot!

By the end of the transaction I of course apologized and offered sympathies on behalf of the pharmacy, and set his profile to 'deceased' which stops all automatic phone calls and such to the phone number on file. Last thing a widow needs to hear is "Mr. Duncan has two days to pick up his medication before it's returned to stock."

But the thing that kicked me in the gut was that I didn't have the heart to tell these women, the younger one especially who went on and on about how wonderful "Dad" was... that to us, "Dad" was by and large a jerk. He was a tosser, and I don't mean that in the British sense of the word. Rather that he had a habit of taking whatever was in his hand and tossing it onto the counter-- and often right across it onto the floor at my feet. Usually, it was a piece of scratch paper with a name and some prescription numbers on it flipped in my general direction as he barked the word "Tomorrow" and walked away without a moment of eye contact or bothering with manners or courtesy. He was just generally impatient, and explaining things like Prior Auths was difficult to say the least. He didn't want to stand still and listen to anyone, just throw paper at us and walk away.

So, what makes someone a "wonderful man"? Because, to be honest, my opinion of him wouldn't change much from knowing if he was a deacon at church or helped with a food bank or any of the rest of the things they usually put in an obituary. The only time I remember him *ever* being more than stony and in a rush was when I wished him "a nice Christmas". He actually stopped and said thank you to that. I'd been waiting on him at least weekly for over a year by that point, and didn't know until then that his eyes were brown, because he'd never looked at me before.

This makes me wonder what else I don't know about this former customer of ours that made others mourn him so openly. And then I wonder if he'd care if anyone missed him or wished him well in whatever lies beyond the flat line when he never bothered to learn our names or look us in the faces, even though we all knew him.

Knowing how much most of my customers appreciate my ability to recognize them as individuals with names and frequent prescriptions and families and lives, it's a little bizarre to me to see someone so unresponsive to those measures called "a wonderful man".

Was he? I couldn't tell.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"There's a Moon out tonight..."

and it's full. Must be. It's the only way I can explain the EPIC amounts of CRAZY that we, the other departments in the store, and almost every other pharmacy or doctor's office I've spoken with since Tuesday, have dealt with.

Even my father, who had to see a specialist in Pittsburgh today, said that the hospital staff they spoke with commented on how nuts it's been. When he joked that if his condition doesn't start to improve, he's going back on the bottle, the P.A. he was talking to said, "God, I needed a drink an hour ago! Can I join you?"

The full moon. That has to be it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dear god, the helplessness.

Some days, I swear, if my customers get any more helpless we'll have to install a moving sidewalk.

Tonight a customer who apparently couldn't be bothered to listen to his wife explaining what medications he's to pick up has to wait while I rummage for bags (one of which, surprise surprise, didn't exist yet), and begins whining while I rummage.

"I just... *emo kid whimper*, I don't know, I... I hate this. I hate all this... medicine stuff. I wish she wouldn't make me do it. I wish my wife would just do it herself and leave me out of it."

By this point I'd figured out that his wife's second medication wasn't available because a prescription must actually be able to be filled (aka: have refills on it) in order for it to be, you know, filled.

This concept took far more explanation than it should have.

"Look, just... just do whatever you need to so I can get her medicine and go home. I wish she wouldn't make me do this crap. [ctd. ad nauseum]"

"I'm sorry sir, but since your wife has no refills left on this prescription, I can't have it ready for her tonight. We'll have to get the doctor's office to authorize refills."

"But... *emo kid whimper* what do you mean?"

"Without refills, we can't give her any medicine. There aren't any refills left, so we have to call the doctor's office, and they're gone now." (It was about 6:30 PM and a non-essential. No E-supply option on something we'd have to break pack to give.)

Then came the kicker:

"But... But... I just. Well, wait. She gave me some other damn thing here..." and he pulls a new Rx out of wallet with a post-it note on it: "Drop this off to be filled. Pick up this and [other medicine] together."

I came about thisclose to telling him "All this medical crap" would probably go a lot easier if he'd stop whining about his wife and start listening *to* his wife, but thankfully I didn't. But how much plainer does "Drop this off first" get?

Tacking on: After he left, I shared his thoughts about his wife "making him do this crap" with the other tech and the pharmacists on duty tonight. The older of the two (married for 30+ years) didn't miss a beat. "That's called marriage!" The other pharmacist, married for about a year replied, "Yeah, really!"

Monday, August 3, 2009

Not sure how I feel about this one.

Pity? Disgust? Mockery? It's one of those ethical gray areas for me.

Today, we waited on the Fishy family. Mrs. Fishy is usually very nice, organized, and would be pleasant to talk to... if it weren't for the stench. She's not our Cat Pee Lady (and every store has at least one, I know). If it were just Cat Pee, I could take it. Nor do I know how her medical conditions may affect her ability to take care of herself. I'm also unsure of her husband's and mother's abilities to address matters of personal hygiene. But what I do know is that the aroma wafting off of these people is entirely unlike anything I've ever smelled from a human body living or dead.

Know that street person we've all seen in some huge city with an almost visible cloud of urine and body odor seeping into the sidewalk on which the unfortunate person sits, the stains of the past 3 month's dumpster-diving adventures adorning an Army surplus coat like morbid medals of horror?

That bum would notice this couple coming from 15' away and pack up and leave before they arrive.

I've finally pinpointed the best comparison to their particular eau de "soap is available in aisle 14, and for the love of God it's on special this week": nam bplah, aka: Thai Fish Sauce, which consists of anchovies or sardines fermented in salt water in the sun for months at a time, then strained, bottled, and sold to the unsuspecting Western public as something yummy for making Curried Chicken and Stir-fried Noodles (until you take a whiff of it and perform olfactory electrolysis on your nose hair).

And it *lingers*. Ten minutes after they'd left the counter today, another customer commented on how horrible the pharmacy smelled and asked if we'd spilled some kind of chemical. I had to tell her no, sorry, it was related to a previous transaction but it should clear out soon. On three separate occasions, I've had to turn away from these people and reach for a HIPPA box, garbage can, or in one case an open prescription drawer, in case the gagging from the odor turned into a public technicolor yawn.

That, of course, makes waiting on this family difficult at the best of times, but topping it is the familial difficulty with cleaning their clothes, washing their hair, or removing built up, caked on body soil from their skin... and wearing sleeveless, strapless, revealing clothing in public.

The kicker? The wife also sports a very impressive growth of beard, I'm assuming as part of some kind of medical condition. Half of the freshmen boys at Local High School are probably jealous... or would be if they stuck around long enough to see it.

I realize, reading through this, that someone has probably chuckled, and more than a few in the medical field are nodding with unpleasant memories, but what made me really start to think about our collective attitude toward this particular family-- and the difficult patients of their type across the board-- was what I saw from another set of customers today. The first is a common reaction that pharmacy staff have laughed about on more than one occasion:

Child sees and smells The Fishys.
Child looks at parent before looking back at The Fishys.
Child asks to be allowed to get something off the grocery list/go play in the toy aisle, go to the bathroom, or just flat out says "Mommy? Why does that lady smell so bad?" or "I thought you said only Men grow beards Dad?"

Children, the prevailing attitude seems to be, can be excused for those types of comments because they, unlike adults, don't always know to bite their tongue for the sake of preserving someone else's feelings or avoiding insult.

But: while The Fishys were talking to their favorite (strong stomached) technician after their transaction was completed today, another customer walked by taking pictures of them on her cell phone. This girl could have been 15, she could have been 25; it was hard to tell. But the behavior reminded me of what people do at a county fair, walking through the barns and realizing that "Those rabbits over there are doing it" or "Hey, that horse has wood!"

What bothers me, I think, is that once I stopped to think about it, The Fishys are treated by everyone I see interact with them in the store like some kind of circus side show act. Google search "The Bearded Lady" and what pops up? Dozens of circus "freak" and side show references. Is that necessary? Is it fair? Is it right?

Part of me says "Of course not. It's degrading and shouldn't be tolerated," just like spitting on customer service workers shouldn't be allowed either.

But then there's the other part of me, who has waited on this woman with a cheerful smile on my face for over a year b/c it's far easier to breathe through my mouth when they're at the counter, that thinks "They have to freakin' know! My god, how could they not?" Small children do not run away gagging from just *anybody* in the grocery store. Teenagers don't usually giggle and whip out their camera phones saying "Holy shit, dude, we need to send this to Tyler!" and "Fuck, man, the smell!" when a regular mom with a full shopping cart rolls by.

Someone somewhere along the way has had to make Mr. and Mrs. Fishy aware that their lack of hygiene has reached an unbearable level for the vast majority of the public. And yet... they do nothing about it. Do they enjoy the notoriety of it? Or do they simply not care that, as nice and kind and helpful as everyone in the store tries to be, they are almost without exception derided and pitied behind their backs after every shopping trip? These kinds of thoughts come from the part of me that would say something about their lack of care for themselves (and the rest of the world around them) if preserving feelings and avoiding insult wasn't often the only way to keep a public service job. Which leads me to think that their doctors probably can't say anything and expect to keep them as patients/not be sued. Their family members who may have tried and probably care might even find it too difficult to bring up.

But is that really something that we, even as awfully as we're treated in the course of a day, should joke about? Or is it part of the fodder for the gallows humor that lets Pharmacist Charming and Mama Bear get back out of bed the next morning and roll into a place they really can't stand to face another day?

Speaking of Hypocrites.

Over at The Angry Pharmacist, venting continues about inter-store transfer times, which reminded me of one of the most childish things I've seen yet in my admittedly brief pharmacy career.

We're a chain that's known for good customer service; consequentially, when transfers come up at other stores, a lot of them come to us. (And of course, the fuel discounts the chain offers don't hurt matters for corporate either.) Unfortunately for some, that means going to their first choice pharmacy, being told there's none in stock, and having to choose somewhere else before parking themselves at our counter and wondering why we don't have the medication already bagged and waiting for them as though we'd laid the pre-filled vials like eggs. "Bob at Competitor was going to call you!"

(A note about Bob at Competitor: I'm sure he, at one point, was a nice guy. But, having been in pharmacy longer than I've been alive, he's now... grumpy. Pretty damn grumpy. That doesn't mean he's bad at his job, just that, well... sometimes he makes it harder on himself.)

So, I don't know what happened in this 80 Rx/day store that meant a Medicare patient came to us for her blood pressure medication, but there she and her son stood, already irritated that they'd have to wait while Pharmacist Charming called Bob.

(A note about Pharmacist Charming: He has a way with people that I've learned *so* much from in the short time he's been working with us. Mostly I'm impressed by his ability to smile and be sweet to an idiot's face without batting an eyelash, and then turn the air blue with highly intelligent and pointed invective the minute the waste of pills is out of ear shot. Old women love him. Cranky old men think he's a great guy. New mothers think he's a life saver. For customer to pharmacist interactions, he's probably one of our top 3 people, and he's about the only one that will go to bat for the techs, which says a lot to me.)

So, Pharm. Charming tells these transfer customers that he'll call Bob for them and get it ready as quickly as he can. He calls Competitor, and their tech puts him on hold. But, Pharm. Charming made a mistake at the beginning of that phone call: he told the tech at Competitor what store he was calling from. Bob, you see, has a grudge. Our chain has taken a lot of business away from his, which I'm sure has caused him more stress than I care to list, but suffice to say he probably deserves better. I can only think of one pharmacist (and he's that in name only) that doesn't deserve better than what he or she gets from corporate-run retail pharmacy. (Even chain gang workers are allowed to stop to pee on occasion.)

Anyway, ten minutes later, Pharm. Charming is still on hold with Competitor, and Transfer Customers ask for the first time how much longer.

Ten minutes after that, Pharm. Charming is still on hold, and Transfer Customers ask how long a second time.

Five minutes after that, Pharm. Charming is *still on hold*, Transfer Customers are breathing fire, and someone suggests that the next tech to get a break walk across the street to Competitor to see what's going on. Just as someone at Competitor finally picked up the phone again, a fellow tech walked into the store with her cell phone and looked back at the pharmacy. Not a soul in sight, except the tech that appeared to be doing something with a computer terminal, and Bob, who by that point was screaming into the phone. Other Tech came back in time to witness Transfer Patients giving Pharm. Charming and everyone else within ear shot a verbal whupping as they were finally being rung out. They apparently called Competitor's customer service line and raised the roof on the place there too, because later that night, after Pharm. Charming finally got to go home and watch his hockey/baseball/basketball game, Bob at Competitor called.

Bob was not a happy man when I picked up that phone, though I give him credit for allowing me to get through our ridiculously long mandatory phone answering spiel before barking "Get me your pharmacist NOW!" I relayed this message word for word to the closing pharmacist, affectionately known as Mama Bear. (If it looks like a bear, acts like a bear, and talks like a bear... you don't want to piss it off.) After the initial "Pharmacist speaking, can I help you?" I didn't hear much of anything clearly for a while. The ranting came through the phone line easily enough 10' away, but most of the words weren't intelligible, aside from the occasional curse word and "waiting that long". In the mean time, Mama Bear's face turned so many varying shades of red I started to wonder if someone was going to have to get the portable defibrillator by the end of the call.

Eventually, Mama Bear said she would not tolerate that kind of behavior toward a fellow professional pharmacist and hung up on him.

He called back. She took the phone again, and it was round two. This time, apparently, threats were made about calling our corporate headquarters and the district manager personally. "Go right ahead," Mama Bear suggested, and hung up again.

*He called back again*, and Mama Bear went off. "This is the most unprofessional behavior I have ever seen from a pharmacist and I've been at this since 1971. You're tying up my phone line, which is keeping me from answering another copy call, and threatening me and my staff over something that is entirely *your fault*. If you call us back again I will report you to the State Board as well as your corporate office. Go get something to eat and have a cup of coffee. You need it!"

The next morning, Bob from Competitor called back. He let me get through our ridiculously long mandatory phone answering spiel, and politely asked for a pharmacist. "It's Bob at Competitor. I'm calling to see if you have any [some kind of common drug] in stock, and if we'd be able to borrow some until our order comes in. May I speak to a pharmacist?" Being a good little minion, I told the 'transfers and problems' pharmacist that Bob from Competitor was on Line 3. The pharmacy was suddenly silent, and significant glances passed between Pharm. Charming, Mama Bear, and Young'un, who was handling problems and transfers that morning.

She opened the line after filing something (probably PA paperwork), listened, and put him back on hold. Bob at Competitor didn't even have to wait five minutes. "Of course, we have a full stock bottle here, 500 tabs. Will that do you?" and Bob's (poor!) tech came over to get it and thank us for the favor.

But what, you may be wondering, had Other Tech seen when she visited Competitor the day before? Bob's computer screen... and a poker game on PAUSE.

To this day, he still throws a fit if he waits more than 5 minutes for a pharmacist.
To this day, I haven't seen one of our pharmacists wait *less* than 5 minutes for Bob to answer the phone.

Pot, meet kettle. You're a pharmacist.

*Please note, these names are not those of actual patients, pharmacists, drugs involved in the situation, etc.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Among the things I just don't get...

People insisting that their morality/ethics/standards are the only ones that matter.

Example: Our store received a complaint last week from a sweaty, overly cologned "gentleman" with a huge gold cross necklace around his neck, a cross tie-tack in his American Flags tie, a praying hands pin on his lapel right above an American flag pin, and a worn leather covered Bible in his hand. (Think you can see where this is going? Just wait.)

He asked for a pharmacist. I got one. Then he asked for a "better" one, and pointed to the only male we had behind the counter, who is not actually a pharmacist, or even an intern. The pharmacist explained that to this man, and he launched on his rant, quoting verses about lewdness and immodesty and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The pharmacist cut him off with "I'm familiar with the Bible, sir. I went to a religious school. What was your complaint?"

His complaint: we sell, right out in the open where people can see them, tampons, which he called "internal hygiene devices". In his mind that's disgusting, immoral, unnecessary, and they should be removed from the shelves immediately so as to not offend his delicate moral sensibilities. He "shouldn't have to see that sort of thing" while shopping for his necessities.

Now, I know the aisle in which the tampons are sold pretty well, thanks to a mishap for a local family in which Daughter's first monthly visitor showed up while Mom was out of town, leaving Older Brother to take her to the store. I spent half an hour in that aisle explaining her options and helping her figure out what she thought would work best. The contents of that aisle are exclusively related to "immoral" things like menstruation, incontinence, "family planning", intimate lubrication, UTI tests and treatment, and (thankfully) 12' of shelf space for Midol and Pamprin (or I probably would have killed someone by now). The "internal hygiene devices" are in the middle of the aisle, with incontinence treatments on the end so the elderly don't have to walk so far from the doors to find them.

Now, I don't question this man's obvious faith and dedication to his morals, but why was he even down there in the first place? What "necessities" did he have to go after down that aisle, and where is the necessity in thinking *his* needs are the only ones to which we should cater? The number of times one of the pharmacy employees has needed something from that aisle just to get through the day should be enough reason to keep it, but no, he was willing to take his complaint all the way up to the corporate level until he "received satisfaction".

My pharmacist gave him the number, said thank you when he grudgingly offered her a "blessed day" and then laughed her ass off when he got out of ear shot. What else can you do with those people?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cross-post from Not Always Right.

God I love this site:

There Is No Spoon

Drug Store | Orlando, FL, USA

(I was called back by the pharmacist to assist with a verbally abusive customer. The more the lady yelled, the louder her kid cried. None of the other customers in line behind her could get to the register. )

Me: “How may I help you?”

Lady: “It’s about time you got back here to straighten this out! This s**thead won’t give me a medicine spoon!”

Pharmacist: “I’m sorry, I’ve tried to explain that we are all out of the complimentary spoons.”

Lady: “If my daughter ends up getting an overdose of her medicine, I’m going to sue you!”

(I rolled my eyes and walked over to a display of dosing spoons, selecting one we sell for 99 cents.)

Me: “Ma’am, I’m sorry we don’t have any of the free ones. Let me buy this one for you.”

Lady: “What? Do I look like a welfare mother to you? I don’t need your f**king charity!”

Pharmacist: “You don’t need the spoon either. Those are chewable tablets…”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

And this is going to fix the problem *how*?

Article here:

Some highlights below:

"The House changes, which drew immediate opposition from liberal lawmakers, would reduce the federal subsidies designed to help lower-income families afford insurance, exempt additional businesses from a requirement to offer insurance to their workers and change the terms of a government insurance option."

So the 'conservatives' want to spend less government money on government-funded insurance for lower-income families while simultaneously making fewer businesses responsible for employee health care insurance? Where is this "universal" coverage going to come from, the sky? It's already doing it's job!

I also find myself wondering why large corporations need to be protected from *their own worker's needs*. I realize "money makes the world go 'round" as Joel Grey's famous lyric so succinctly explains, but without workers, where would the profit come from in the first place? Do $1,500 suits and gold name plaques on their desks make executives forget that somewhere, someone actually has to do work to put money into their bank accounts?

"More problematic from the Democrats' point of view is a tentative agreement to omit a provision in which the government would sell insurance in competition with private industry. In its place, the group is expected to recommend nonprofit cooperatives that could operate at the state, regional or even national level."

Nope, can't have any more competition for private insurances. Absolutely not. Not laissez faire if the 21st Century Robber Barons have to compete with their government for money. (Not that I'm in favor of or against any of these ideas right now; I'm just very cynical and jaded toward private insurances in general.)

"Nor is any bipartisan recommendation likely to include a requirement for large businesses to offer insurance to their workers. Instead, they would have a choice between offering coverage or paying a portion of any government subsidy that noninsured employees would receive."

If I'm reading this right, large businesses would either offer insurance through a private firm, or pay part of the cost to the government for care of their employees. "How big a portion?" is my first question, followed shortly thereafter by "So how can we avoid private insurances getting their money at all?" Like I said, cynical and jaded (thank you Highmark).

But finally, there's this:
"House Republican conservatives, relegated to the sidelines of the debate, unveiled a $700 billion health care plan with tax credits to help defray the cost of insurance. Unlike Democratic plans, it would not set up new federally regulated purchasing pools for individuals and small businesses. Instead, it would allow individuals to use the Internet to purchase lower-cost coverage if available anywhere in the country."

An overwhelming number of my Senior Citizen customers can't even use the damn voice mail line. I can see that "go buy it online with your Visa card" idea going swimmingly.

"It would provide grants to states to help set up high-risk pools for people with medical problems who are denied coverage by commercial insurers. The GOP bill also would limit jury awards for pain and suffering, and create new courts with specially trained judges to decide medical malpractice claims."

The first idea, I'll admit, sounds promising at face value. The people screwed over by the current system would have some back up from a government level. But... isn't that what Medicaid is already in place to do? And we see how well that's been working for the past few decades.

That last thing about new courts, though, really makes me scratch my head. Do we need a new courts system to interpret the law (because that's why it's supposed to be there) regarding medical care and insurance claims, or is there a way to make the current system work in a more efficient and, I don't know, sensible way? This idea looks like another protection move thought up by a lobbiest somewhere. Who will train these new judges? My bet would go on some sort of 'medical consulting firm' which is inevitably owned by the same corporations under fire from the proposed legislation.

I don't claim to be any kind of expert on insurances, billing systems, or the intricate workings of "health care" (read "wealth care") corporations. What I *do* know quite well are the faces I see across that pharmacy counter every day. And most of them don't give two shits about who pays for "the other part" of their medicine: they want to know why 1 Lipitor 20 mg costs more than the smiling face in the blue smock earns in an hour. Some of them are still feisty enough to wonder why the heck they pay $200+/mo. in premiums and deductables just to shell out another $165/mo or more at the pharmacy's register.

But do I have an idea of how to fix it? No. I just got to this party 2 years ago. The bullshit's been piling up, as far as I can tell, for easily double the time I've even been *alive*. So, what do you think? Where does the current system fail so miserably that the government needs to step in and take someone out to the woodshed?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can't I?

Becky the Techie here. This blog is just for blab about work-related things: news articles, rants, questions, comments and concerns. Yeah, yeah, I know "another pharmacy blog"? I have other blogs for the rest of my life, and I'm trying not to pollute those with the slag of a day of slog. Don't want to read it? You don't have to. (I work in a pharmacy, I'm used to nobody listening to a darn thing I say.)